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One-on-One With…Tom!

July 18, 2012
One on One

One on One

Okay, this week we have a new one-on-one interview with Tom. Tom originally hails from Texas and considers himself “your typical gamer”: he works in IT, likes Monty Python and other BBC shows, and loves fantasy and sci-fi movies. Tom started playing D&D back in third grade, played religiously until he was 20, and has only dabbled since then as “with life happening, it’s become harder to find dedicated people that are awesome to game with.”

In the interest of full disclosure–and it’s just interesting–Tom was part of the large group I used to play with. He joined that group when he was probably a freshman in high school (about the time I was a senior). We were Band together and kicked some serious ass in the trumpet section (Go BoJo!). I can say with certainty that he was a pleasure to play with–not the least because he was so unpredictable!

So, with that brief introduction, here’s Tom!

In your opinion, who are game masters?

Game Masters are people that can tell a story, that can pull you into an alternate reality where you lose yourself and the worldly woes around you.  It’s more than mechanics of the game, the pencil and paper – it’s the adventure of feeling, visualizing, smelling and general “holy shit” I’m really here!  A great GM can do this.

Furthermore, a GM is a person that will bend the rules if it makes the story better.  Yeah, that’s probably not a popular statement however if it pushes the story in a direction that makes your skin crawl then it’s awesome.  Go for it!

A GM is also a person that brings harmony and balance to the players.  He can tell when issues are happening outside of the game and is willing to be a leader in the real-world as well to help solve those issues.  Those personal issues can cause your character in the game to do things…well, out of character.  The GM needs to sense this and be there to help resolve those issues.

A GM is badass.

How do you describe to “outsiders” what a game master does?

The GM is a torysteller…ha!  Remember that first book that whisked you away to that magical land?  Was it The Hobbit, LoTR, The Princess Bride, or in my case…Bram Stoker’s Dracula?  The GM has the uncanny ability to transport you into this world and bring it alive.  It’s beyond any movie experience, it’s beyond a book, it’s the unscripted life that you and the other players bring lightning to and bring to life.

How did you get started game mastering?

A challenge…another great quality of a GM.  I had only GM’d for friends that were not into gaming as I felt insecure about my skills as a storyteller, about remembering the rules of the game, etc.  I confided these insecurities to my GM when I was in high school and he challenged me to do a one night adventure where I was the GM.  I eventually accepted and it was a great experience…did that little voice in my head still talk in a negative way – Hades yea, however it became more lucid and more hushed over time.

How has being a game master affected you as a player? Or vice-versa?

Respect.  A GM has a horrid time thinking what the players are going to do.  It’s like a game of chess where your opponent is Neo from The Matrix after he sees the matrix and you are Agent Smith getting blown to hell.  You only think you control things and in reality with each player that you have, the exponential complexity and insight that they bring just compounds the role you have as a GM.  Which…makes it AWESOME for the players and of course the GM once he has accepted that this will happen.

How has game mastering impacted your “real” life–if at all? And has “real life” impacted your game mastering?

Being a GM and a player has helped me significantly in life.  I’m able to tell stories way better, my imagination is wicked and the ability to capture a person’s interest and have them intrigued has helped in my personal life as well as business life.  I owe so much to RPGames and those friends that I played with…who knew?!?

In regards to impacting my GMing…I honestly cannot say, I haven’t GM’d seriously in over 15 years.  I’m sure it has but do not have any empirical evidence to provide…

What inspires you as a game master?

A good story…where I can get lost and transported.  Be it a movie, a person’s real-life tale, anything that can transport you outside of your body.  This may sound metaphysical or maybe like I’m running away from reality but it’s not.  We all have (I HOPE!!!) a moment where you just lose yourself in music, a book, a movie…it’s what some drug users say as well.  Those moments, that flow that you get into, are unique and it’s a high.  I remember so many great stories of gaming, the people I was with, the feelings I had and I can to this day feel those feelings when I look back on those memories.

How would you explain your philosophy or approach to game mastering?

Wow!  Well, this really depends on the environment that the players are wanting.  The primary GM that I had was into high-fantasy and horror…both awesome.  So, when I GM’d I would go the opposite and make it like Mad Max — very rough environment, if you didn’t have water you would die and well water was nowhere to be conjured.  I wanted to experience something new and I wanted to provide that experience to the players.

What do you like best about game mastering? Least?

Bringing joy to others and expanding past my own insecurities…the least, I would say getting the courage up to work on my personal fears.

What is the most challenging aspect of game mastering? Why?

Accepted the fact that you are a pawn, not the master!  Ha!!!  As I mentioned earlier, go ahead an think 2, 3, 10 steps ahead…as soon as you do the players will decide to go have another pint in the Prancing Pony only to throw off your entire story for the night.

What are the traits of a good game master? Are there different traits needed to be a good player?

I believe that I’ve captured this already.  However, in summary…

A great storyteller, a friend, a person that will bend the rules to make the story even more interesting, a mentor, mediator and again…a fantastic storyteller.

What is your favorite game story (with you as the GM)?

Not fair, I have better ones as a player!

Well, as a player then…

There are so many…

Call of Cthulhu : The entire campaign that took place in Bowie* back in the 1800s (?)…that was awesome and a great twist on local history.

Tasiler, Morgan, Damian, etc.: This was my first campaign with you guys, I had just turned 14 that summer and started my Freshman year of HS.  So, that in itself was awesome.  However, while the entire campaign was awesome, the way it ended was a good life lesson.  If you recall, and I believe it was your character or maybe John’s — we had wandered into a cave or something and these little critters (that flew?) and ended up having only 1 HP each but there were hundreds of them attack us and killed us left and right.  We all had intelligent weapons, we ruled the world, etc.  At the very end, John** (yes it was him) had no more spells left.  I had a flying trident that he and I jumped on and tried to escape but they flew after us and devoured us.  The lesson was not to get too cocky!  Haha!!!  The next day or so, we remember that John had a dagger that could have teleported us out of there but in the midst of the chaos no one remembered this vital piece of info.  I guess we didn’t train enough and we got our asses handed to us.

John’s character who had a phobia of cows***…: I was jealous.  I joined after this campaign was over but you guys talked about it for years.  Hell, I think you guys talked about it to the last days we played together, that always made me jealous.  The fraternity aspect that it gave you guys was phenomenal and yes, I did feel that way at one point – so don’t worry!  The fact that a game can bring together a group of people, give them stories and enable them to rehash those tales of woe, adventure and pee-tea**** years later (damn, decades later) goes to show the power of the game, friendship and the impact of storytelling.

Thank you, Tom! Great stuff in there and it really brings back some memories.

If any of  you want to participate in the project and share your story, hit the How to Participate Button up top and let me know!

*Bowie, Texas. Our very small (5000 pop.) hometown.
**Another member of our group at the time.
***His character infamously started a stampede of cattle during one of our many days of traveling. After he made his harrowing escape, he always got nervous when too many bovines were gathered. And would often jump if someone said “Moo!” at him…good times!
****Pee-tea : We often availed ourselves of iced tea during our game sessions–and we all made many trips to the loo in the process. As a result, we decided that we were drinking pee-tea (or, I guess PT). It was chock full of vitamin P.

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